Natasha Bowdoin: Lunar Spring Evokes “Fantastical” Relationship to Nature

To promote an upcoming exhibition by artist Natasha Bowdoin, a feature story was written for the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. The story was used on VisArts’ homepage and the organization’s e-newsletter.

View the article on VisArt’s website.

Natasha Bowdoin grew up in rural West Kennebunk, Maine, and when she wasn’t playing in the woods, she was out on the water. The year before she moved to Philadelphia to earn her MFA at the Tyler School of Art, she worked on her uncle’s lobster boat. Those early connections to nature have never left her, and they now shape the way she approaches her work.

In Lunar Spring, which runs from January 28 to March 12, Bowdoin presents large-scale drawings of insects and the moon, along with smaller drawings and collages. Some of those smaller pieces were studies for the title work of the exhibition, a site-responsive sculptural installation that takes over the first room of VisArts’ True F. Luck Gallery.

Made of intricate layers of painted paper, wood and vinyl and created entirely on site, Lunar Spring was inspired from the short stories, “Distance of the Moon” by Italo Calvino and “Spring” by Bruno Schulz.

“Both stories are in many ways meditations on nature and our relationship with the natural world,” said Bowdoin. “Lunar Spring is a fantastical term that brings together these literary reference points with the work, as they all envision alternate realities of how we might engage, imagine and understand the natural world.”

Much of the work in the exhibition was made this winter during Bowdoin’s time as a Quirk+VisArts artist-in-residence. Bowdoin, who is an assistant professor of painting and drawing at Rice University, is the third artist to benefit from the newly established Quirk+VisArts Artist Residency, which brings visiting artists to Richmond, where they can spend up to several months living at Quirk and working at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. “It was decadent to have that kind of time,” said Bowdoin.

Bowdoin’s work, which is extremely organic, reflects an intuitive response to space. Inspired by the True F. Luck Gallery’s architecture and dimensions, she created an installation that utilizes not only the walls but the floor, which Bowdoin covered in vinyl before painting. Black and white flowers and foliage creep along and off the walls and into the space.

The natural question visitors will ask is: Is it OK to walk on the work?

“I wanted to use the floor and the space to affect the way people move through the gallery,” Bowdoin said. “I want to keep it open and not be a barrier to how people want to interact with the work. Some will be inclined to walk on it, others won’t, and I like the idea of that changing.”

As for what visitors take away with them, Bowdoin says she tries not to be too didactic with her work’s potential message. However, now that Lunar Spring is complete and she’s had the chance to step back and reflect on it, she thinks an underlying message does come to the surface.

“I hope people walk away with a renewed appreciation for nature – we’re on this planet and we need to take care of it.”

A public reception for Natasha Bowdoin’s exhibition, “Lunar Spring,” will take place on Friday, February 3. Bowdoin will give an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. and the reception will run from 6 to 8 p.m. “Lunar Spring” runs through March 12.


Photo credit: Visual Arts Center of Richmond.